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President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo shares center stage with other world leaders at the Clinton Global Initiative Opening Plenary in New York. INQUIRER.NET/LIRA D. FERNANDEZ


Arroyo shares spotlight with global leaders in forum

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
Last updated 01:38pm (Mla time) 09/27/2007

NEW YORK -- (UPDATE) The Philippines shared center stage with world leaders and international organizations in making headway for the environment and peace at the Clinton Global Initiative Opening Plenary at the Sheraton Hotel here.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sat as the only female member in a panel of six, which included Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, former US Vice President and environment advocate Al Gore, World Bank president Robert Zoellick, Wal-Mart president H. Lee Scott, and South Africa spiritual leader Desmond Tutu.

Former US President Bill Clinton, the man behind the initiative, introduced Arroyo as a "friend a long, long time ago" and a classmate in Georgetown and praised her for taking "tough decisions" and putting the Philippine economy "back in very good shape."

Clinton said that much has been written about the Philippines in the past as a troubled nation.

"She has taken a lot of tough economic decisions and the economy has turned around, it is on the way up now and in very good shape," Clinton said in describing Arroyo.

At a meeting with leaders of the Filipino community Wednesday night (New York time), Arroyo said Clinton congratulated her as she entered the backstage because the Philippines was experiencing "economic renaissance."

During the panel discussion, Clinton asked the panelists specific solutions to pressing issues in each country.

Asked to share the Philippine experience in dealing with the Mindanao conflict, Arroyo said the government adopted the use of "soft and hard power" through interfaith dialogue and cultural awareness.

She also said that peace should come with development and by empowering the people in the community.

Arroyo also discussed about the country's use of geothermal energy as a source of cheap and clean energy and how the government was promoting this in economic zones.

She said she wanted to share to the world the Philippine government's "paradigm for peace and development." She said the 7.5 percent growth in the country's gross domestic product in the last quarter showed that this paradigm was working well.

Organized in 2005, the Clinton Global Initiative aims to bring together global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems.

Tutu, the most applauded among the panelists, underscored the role of religious leaders in a democracy.

"Even in the Philippines, the revolution was led by religious leaders," he said.

Tutu rallied other countries to make a statement supporting the Myanmar people in calling for the release of pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Gore discussed about the need for a more united action among nations to deal with climate change and preserve the environment. He said the Bush administration should follow the example of former US President Ronald Reagan in instituting measures to reduce carbon monoxide emission.

Meeting with the Filipino community leaders later in the day, Arroyo said the Philippine economy was now "on the path of permanent growth and stability.

She said revenues were up, foreign debts were being paid, unemployment rate was at an all-time low, and the peso was strong.

"Ang lakas ng piso, sorry na lang sa inyo, pero nakakatulong naman ito sa bansa [The peso is strong, sorry for you, but this has helped our country]," she said.

Arroyo also assured Filipino war veterans that the government was working to urge the US government to pass the Veterans Equity bill.

She also said that the US Congress has also approved the increase in budget for military assistance to the Philippines.

Originally posted at 11:30pm, September 26, 2006

Copyright 2007 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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